HR Roundtable: How Do You Handle Today’s Information Overload?

The October HR Roundtable in Cincinnati took on a very broad topic that actually affected EVERYONE in the business world today and that is: “How do you handle all of the information you get hit with today?”

To get started, the attendees broke into small groups to discuss the following three questions:

  1. How do you handle the constant flow of information?
  2. Why do we seem to get “stuck?”
  3. How, and where, do you find resources?

The direction of this Roundtable was to bring out the point that even in the massive onslaught of information, HR people still need to get resources that keep them informed, relevant and growing!

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Here’s what came out of the small group discussions …

How do you handle the constant flow of information?

  • Prioritize what is coming in and what truly needs attention. Great approach! The key to this is to truly have discipline so that you are receiving information that matters to you and your job. The downside is that you could get in a rut and keep a very narrow focus and potentially miss other great resources. All information does need some pace to it so that it is a “flow” and not a “flood.” You need to make a system that works for you best.
  • Understand the expectations of receiving information. Another phenom answer! Getting clarity around information helps you break through the noise. The key to this is that you have to intentionally seek this out yourself. Don’t rely on the sender to do this. If you do, you won’t get much clarity because they are just “sending.” When you are intentional, people tend to respond positively and appreciate that you took the time to connect.
  • Disengage! This takes an intentional approach as well. You can choose to subscribe or unsubscribe to everything. It you just complain at your monitor, the sender never knows or cares. Take the time to only take in what you find valuable. It is your responsibility to disconnect if that’s what you think is necessary.
  • Set up filters/categories. Organize the information you receive. One suggestion was a platform like Google Reader where you can subscribe to the blogs you choose to follow and then manage how they are hitting your reader. These types of platforms also set up an e-mail “filter” because the information is out on Google instead of flooding your inbox.
  • Know who and where information is coming. Be alert and make sure you have a connection to the information sources that are sending you their stuff. You don’t have to be subjected to random splattering of info. When you do know the source of things, you tend to value it more and utilize it. It isn’t a hassle, it’s info you can use
  • Take in more information! What? That doesn’t seem to fit. Exactly! You don’t have to see information as an obstacle. Knowledge is power (so they say). You need to make sure you are thoroughly connected. If you limit your scope, you limit your opportunities to learn more and stay ahead of current trends. There’s no reason to lag behind in the profession.

Why do we seem to get “stuck?”

  • We’re constantly distracted. This is incredibly true. Today’s work environment is more akin to staying afloat and fighting Class 6 white water rapids. The pace can be blinding at times and we honestly don’t have the ability to set apart large chunks of time to take in new information. The continuous pull in a thousand directions also keeps us from trying to stay focused on something for any significant period of time.
  • A laundry list of fears! This was such an awesome response! Fear can absolutely consume someone and cause them to freeze and not move. It’s like scammers and spammers and jammers, oh my! Not knowing what the incoming information is, who it’s from, etc. can also cause fear and paralysis.
  • We get too comfortable. Human nature causes us to seek the norms. We all want stasis in our lives. Therefore, it’s easier to sit and not move on information than to get things moving. Sometimes it appears that people get so comfortable they “fall asleep” in HR. Needs to change and/or be eliminated.
  • We’re indecisive. If we’re not clear on the information we take in, then people are glad to pile on and send you more and more. HR needs to stand firm and be direct in how information is handled. You can still be diplomatic and “human” while doing this. You don’t have to think that being decisive is being mean.
  • We don’t delegate. Most HR people I know, this author included, tend to take on more vs. sharing the wealth. Sharing the information you receive with others within your department and/or other departments is critical. You can truly be a very effective connection throughout the business if you get information out vs. trying to handle it all yourself.

How, and where, do you find resources?

  • Google Alerts. Use this great resource to highlight key words, themes, topics that interest you and set up an “alert” to be told when it hits. This way you’re managing the type and flow of information you like to receive.
  • LinkedIn Groups. These can be very effective and vibrant — IF you participate! One sided lurking only goes so far. Engage, share, ask for input, etc. The more active you are, the better quality information you’ll receive.
  • Build your network. An incredible resource of quality information is other HR people! We tend to think now that information only comes through electronically to one device or another. People generate information. Get to know them and be an intentional connection. These relationships will garner more long-term resources than you can imagine. Steve recommended that everyone pick-up the book Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen to get a better perspective on the power of what your social networks truly do. This isn’t talking about social media, it’s talking about people.
  • People in your company. We tend to think that information always comes from external sources. If we do that, then we’re missing the gold mine of information and experience that exists in our current organizations. When is the last time you sought someone out as a resource? Not to be a problem solver – but a resource. Think about it and then walk down the hall to learn from someone who’s right next to you.
  • SHRM and local HR chapters. It amazes me how many people are in HR, and yet, numerically, very few are connected to these great resources. Yes, it takes time to get connected and engaged with these forums, but it’s worth it! They offer great professional development opportunities, white papers, tool kits, etc. Don’t overlook them. Get connected and see how you can gather great information that is current and relevant.
  • HR blogs. There are a plethora of great HR bloggers who are putting out incredible content. There are blogs on recruiting, compliance, compensation & benefits, organizational psych, training, development, OD, etc. You can get a local perspective, a national perspective and a global perspective from these great resources. Recently, Laurie Ruettimann, put out her HR Blog list for 2012. You need to check it out and then fill your Google Reader with the great reads that inspire you to be a better HR pro!

This HR Roundtable took off and we shared more “information” with folks, but it was quality stuff.

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.



2 Comments on “HR Roundtable: How Do You Handle Today’s Information Overload?

  1. Great tips from the HR Roundtable. You hit the nail on the head with your reference to utilizing people in your company. Just as we don’t delegate as much as we should to our team, we also don’t take advantage of their collective brain power or networks either. Our team is our business’s best asset, correct? So let’s use them for industry information, networking, and employee referrals in hiring. If they are a dedicated team, this will only help your brand.

    1. Great point – the best managers are (among other things) the best delegators. They don’t dump stuff on their colleagues and they don’t hoard stuff either. Instead they create an environment where it’s encouraged to help people step up and improve by getting them involved.

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